By Dr Hercules Kollias
Even if you’re in a work environment that is currently healthy and happy, things can change dramatically. A successful department is just the kind of place that sees its leaders promoted or hired for bigger and better things given their track record of success and results. The new leadership that comes in might not feel comfortable with the status quo, considering they are not their predecessor. So, they start looking to put in their own big ideas, processes, and systems.
No one really knows if they can meet the new leader’s expectations and demands, and suddenly, everyone around you is spooked when they come to work. They might not be looking to stab one another in the back or form a circular firing squad, but when an environment gets filled with fear, it’s impossible to both trust your coworkers professionally while also keeping their personal confidence.
Fear makes people do things you or they regret.
Fear makes people do things you or they regret, and if any coworker feels like they’re under attack, they might use what they know to put someone else under the bus, and that could be you. Protect yourself by never sharing the following 10 things with a coworker, in both good work environments and bad:
1) Don’t discuss long-range professional plans of yours if they leaving your current job is a part of the plan: Some of your co-workers likely are grateful they landed their current jobs and might not see any future for themselves past their current yet limited horizons. It’s great to dream of bigger and better, but not if it makes those around you feel bad about where they might be stuck, be it lack of education, age, or just inability to leave a benefits package they need.
2) Don’t say a single word about your job being beneath you: It might be, but did you take it because it was a door into a company that you wanted to work for? Also, many of your coworkers might struggle a lot to do their job, and they’re not going to enjoy being around someone that thinks the job doesn’t take much skill or education. In fact, they’re likely to consider you a smug individual. It’s hard to get out of an entry-level position with coworkers sabotaging you.
3) Never talk about personal finances with coworkers: Eventually, someone talks about their own expenses, budget, or income. Nod politely, but don’t engage or feel free to chime in about your own facts. If you’re doing well for yourself, jealousy among coworkers can be an issue, perhaps even with requests for loans or expectations of paying for lunch. Even if you’re not doing so well, if your personal life looks bad financially, you might get a reputation as someone who can’t hack it professionally for the company either. Never fuel the gossip around the office.
Never fuel the gossip around the office.
4) Don’t tell anyone about your job hunting: Even when you love your job, you need to keep your eyes open for better positions and opportunities. At the very least, this research should tell you the market demand for your line of work or position, as well as what kind of benefits or compensation you should expect. Use that information to negotiate for yourself at the time where you might get a raise, promotion, or just a routine performance appraisal. However, if you start letting coworkers know you’re looking to move on, for good or bad, those under you might start seeing your current position with eyes of lust and do what they can to muscle you out the door and take your job. Even being treated as expendable when you have no intention of leaving is a horrible situation to deal with.
5) Keep your mouth shut about a crush you have on any coworker: Even if you’re dating, keep it quiet at the office. Only if a relationship becomes stable and serious should you inform your manager. Keep that speech simple, though. Just mention the person and that you’re romantically involved outside the office. Don’t even say why you’re telling your manager except that you thought he or she should know directly from you and not someone else. No one else really needs to know unless you’re in violation of an established policy. Many people spend most of their adult hours at work, so that’s where they meet the most people. That means dating among coworkers is actually quite common, and it shouldn’t be a source of gossip, backstabbing, or amusement.
6) Don’t tell your fellow employees that you don’t like any manager in your organization: Whether it’s your own direct supervisor or a manager elsewhere in the hierarchy, just don’t talk about it. If you let anyone know how you feel about any manager, then they have the power to spill the beans. At best, you’ll be in an awkward situation. At worst, someone who has it out for you can make life very miserable for you.
7) Never let coworkers know if headhunters are constantly calling you: Even if you love your job and don’t plan on leaving, having the power to decline headhunters might feel great to you, but it makes you look arrogant to coworkers. Some might get jealous if they’re not getting their own calls from various recruiters, and others are just going to feel like you think you’re better than they are. That never helps any team that has to function together, and hurting your current team’s chemistry and productivity can wind up minimizing or even wrecking accomplishments you could be a part of and fill your resume with.
8) Keep things to yourself when you hate your job: Of course look for new work on your own time, but never let your colleagues have any idea just how miserable you are. It isn’t going to do them any good to know this, and they might actually start not caring how you feel about anything. In fact, if you’re known as someone who is not happy, you might start getting the worst assignments dumped on you and no one will want to socialize with you in the breakroom. Poisoning potential contacts and references makes it harder to get out.
9) Don’t say anything to your colleagues when you wind up breaking rules at work: For example, if you ever take a sick day when you’re not actually physically ill, it inevitably comes back around to bite you in the back. An unscrupulous coworker might use it as leverage over you, or just stab you in the back with leadership and others. You also might just set a bad example that others follow, further deteriorating an already negative or hostile environment.
10) Stay quiet about any plans you have to transfer to another department: Eventually, someone in your workgroup is going to have a bad day, even if your environment isn’t that bad. Guess who is going into the manager’s office to vent about who wants out of the department and hasn’t said anything yet? You’re going to get a very bad reputation as someone who would rather run that stick around and put up with what everyone else does daily.
If you’re lucky enough to be in a healthier environment, or you were able to identify one and land work there, then you don’t have to be so fearful about stray comments making their way into the ears of the wrong person who might cause you grief, directly or otherwise. On the other hand, if you know you’re in a bad environment, then you have to be very tight-lipped around your fellow coworkers.
When things get so dismal that workplace conversation can’t really adhere to these rules and talk about much more than sports and weather, then it’s probably time to pack it up and leave. Your job should pay enough to let you be happy in your personal and family life, but you honestly deserve to be happy while at work too.